POC representation and diversity of casts on Television is hard to come by, and even harder to do well. While it is becoming more and more common to see diverse casts, often times the diversity is the main selling point of the show. They tell us to focus on the token black female character, or the clueless asian comic relief. As a result, the attempt falls short.
Not with Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, because there are no token characters in this show. Three of the main characters are women, two of whom are African American. The show’s cast includes POCs like Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones, Lyndie Greenwood, and John Cho, alongside three of the main characters: Tom Mison, John Noble, and Katia Winters. And all of that is solely based on Season 1.
The plot of Sleepy Hollow revolves around Ichabod Crane, a soldier from the Revolutionary War who was pulled two and a half centuries into the future, and Abbie Mills, a black lieutenant in the Sleepy Hollow Sheriff’s department. The two of them are bound together in a fight against evil neither of them signed up for. It sounds a little corny, and it is. But it’s also funny and sarcastic and incredibly poignant from time to time, and bringing the story into the present day is what allows the cast to be so authentically diverse. Abbie and Ichabod’s character chemistry is electric, but other relationships aren’t ignored. Platonic and familial relationships are just as important as any kind of romantic one. In fact, romance is hardly a factor at all in the series. It’s there, but it’s never oppressive.
Of course, the show is not without its faults. Ichabod can be incredibly aggravating and he somehow knows about or has already met every monster or threat they face. The writing can be cliche at times, and several of the shifts in the storyline are awkward and forced at best. But the characters are compelling and three-dimensional. Every character has their flaws and faults and the contribute well to the story. All of the personalities are incredibly strong, and everyone’s sense of humor is different, but they flow well together. The villains are developed and coming from places you’d never expect, most of the time, anyway. The demons and challenges they face are terrifying and always keep you on your toes. When watching: be prepared to be scared.
Sleepy Hollow is written and created by the people who did the new Star Trek movies, Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who have both worked on several movies and shows that work to incorporate women as strong, well-developed characters. These include: Both Star Treks, The Amazing Spider 2, Scorpion, The Proposal, and Alias. This is one of the first projects that the two of them have worked on that really incorporates POCs in a big way. And they do it well. That could be because of the other two creators, Phillip Iscove and Len Wiseman, whose lists of projects are much shorter than Orci’s and Kurtzman’s; thus leaving them far more open to new ideas. Race and gender are never issues. Of course, Ichabod is confused by things like the fact that his being questioned by a black, female lieutenant in pants, but they touch upon it and move on. There are more important things that the characters need to be worried about, like that fact apparently it is their job to stop the Acropolis from destroying the Earth.
This new take on Washington Irving’s classic American fairy tale is strange, and often scary, but it’s funny and poignant and like nothing else I’ve seen. Lines like, “ I’ve lived on borrowed time; more than any man deserves. I’ve seen wonders beyond my wildest imaginings. And through these centuries, against the impossibility that we would find each other, we did. And I am most grateful for it,” can end up in the same episode as this: “You know, there are two things in life I believe a person should hold on to for as long as possible: virginity and skepticism. Surprisingly, I already lost the first thing so I’m going to hold on for the second one as long as possible.”
If you need a good show that will scare you, surprise you, and make you laugh, all in the same episode, this is just what the doctor ordered.